1. The Anne Frank House
Visiting the Anne Frank House was such a surreal experience, that I still find difficult to put into words. I was mesmerised seeing the moveable bookcase; the annexe; the pictures Anne had cut out of magazines and stuck to her wall; seeing her diary, and the hundreds of pieces of paper she had filled with her stories, and thoughts. I feel so lucky to have been able to see such a place, full of fascinating history. In the gift shop on the way out I picked up a paperback copy of Anne's diary, something I have never actually read, and can't wait to learn more about a fellow aspiring journalist and her family.
2. The Jewish Quarter
We were so intrigued following our time in the Anne Frank house and we really wanted to learn more about the history of Amsterdam during the Second World War so much so that we ventured across the city to The Jewish Quarter to find Hollandsche Schouwburg, now the National Holocaust Memorial. Initially we weren't sure we were in the right place, then we thought it was closed because it looked very empty inside, however a lovely man opened the door and welcomed us inside. I think admission for the Memorial is around €15, however because it was so quiet and we were so clearly very eager to learn we were welcomed in and not charged a fee (we think this is why anyway because we only found out afterwards that there was an admission charge!!). It is very surreal to be standing in a place were many Jewish people in 1942 were taken to before they were transported to transit camps and then to concentration camps. There is a memorial room where the names of all the 'Jews of the Netherlands' who died during the Second World War are presented, there is a TV that plays several documentaries, with stories told by survivors, and there is also an exhibition showcasing pictures, videos and objects from 1940-1945. It is another fascinating experience, and if your are a history geek like me, you'll love it.
This is one of the most beautiful parks I've ever been to. We wandered around for hours, stopping at the statues, the flower gardens, snapping pictures of crooked trees and flowers fully bloomed. It was so peaceful and still in the rain. There are lots of cafes around the park too, or if it's a nice day and you fancy having lunch outside, pack a picnic and enjoy the sunshine.
4. Rijksmusuem Gardens
These gardens became my friends and I's favourite spot. We were lucky that our hotel was so close to the museum, we were able to head back there every evening before getting ready for dinner, to recharge and soak up the last of the sun. There are benches, water fountains, statues and other forms of art scattered throughout the gardens surrounding the museum, it is the best spot to chill and people watch in Amsterdam.
5. The Red Light District
You can't visit Amsterdam and not experience the craziness of The Red Light District. It is one those things you can always say 'Yeah I've seen that', and it really exposes to you the culture of Amsterdam. It is such an interesting experience to see how different the culture is, and how normal it is that the locals don't even bat an eye. The girls working in the District are just normal girls, who you may have passed on the street earlier that day and not even paid attention to. This is just their job, and what is shocking to the initially ignorant tourist is how normal they actually are, standing on their phones, smoking or chatting to each other. It really is fascinating to be able to see an element of another culture that is in such stark contrast to your own.